seaside scene built with wooden toys

Open Ended Toys: Picks for Bigger Kids

  • Emily 

Starting a wooden toys collection is a daunting task–and so is growing a collection as your kids get older–what to buy next? A few weeks ago we talked about some great choices if you’re starting a collection for kids ages 0-5. All of these are great toys going beyond ages 0-5, and there are a few things that make it into our recommended list for ages 5+ as well. Here we’ve pulled together some favorites for older kids.

As kids get older, you start to get a feel for their interests and can start tailoring to their preferences (sea animals or safari, small world builds vs ball runs, etc). Its still really important to keep toys open-ended so kids aren’t locked into toy-prescribed games but can allow the game to flow.

Last time we touched on a few categories of toys that are worth filling:  building materials, small world materials, loose parts, and figures. I strongly recommend all of the pieces we show here, but there are a lot of great options if something fits your family’s play better. Buttons are included at the bottom of this post for easy browsing and shopping.

Building materials:

1: The Bauspiel stepped building blocks is a wonderful building set–a great standalone set and a beautiful set integrated with other sets. Read here for more information about how this set compares with similar Grimms sets.
2: Grimms Building Blocks: Here I’ve pulled together an assortment of blocks from many different sets–no one set is best when you’re shopping for ages 5+, but I suggest looking for a set with a good mix of large and small pieces. 1001 nights is a great choice for a small-world oriented builder, the Standard or Basic sets are good for ball-run-builders. The great thing is they all are versatile, so you really cannot go wrong.
3: Grimms Slopes are great for adding texture and new angles into small world builds, and invaluable in ball runs. They even stack satisfyingly to make a rainbow forest.
4: The Grimms Color Rally charts was one of our first sets, and continues to be popular today. Its great for domino runs, fun in ball runs, makes great towers and often moonlights as beds in small world play. If you cannot find this set, the Gluckskafer Slats are a great set to look for.
5: Grimms Building Boards are a must for a ball-run-builder, but also great for adding floors into castles and buildings, or fun as roads
6: The Grimms bridges are great in small world play, good bridges for cars in towns, fun roof shapes and great in ball runs
7+8: A Rainbow and Semi-circles are great for building towers and adding height. This is the Grimms rainbow, but the Ocamora is also beautiful, and Myers are delightful. Read here for more information about picking a rainbow. The Grimms semi-circles work with most rainbows.
9: Bauspiel X-blocks are beautifully made and add new options to any build–windows, fences, and they invite a variety of new balancing options.
10: Grimms Leonardo Sticks: These could almost land with loose parts–we use them for everything from roofs, to paths, to rivers, to towers and often in ball runs to keep balls on the track.
11: Grimms Stepped Roofs–they’re beautiful in small world builds as roofs, and really fun in ball runs for a rumply-bumply sound.

Loose parts: (note:  some of these are choking hazards, please play attentively)

12: Bauspiel windows are amazing for catching and spreading light they could be sorted as blocks, but we use them most to ornament buildings, as nests for chickens (really) or to make any scenery feel special.
13: Bauspiel lucent cubes fit beautifully into the holes from the x-blocks. We love them as gems, windows, “money”, and in scenery, particularly as water and magic potions.
14: Grapat nesting rings are beautiful to look at, fun in small world flat lays, and kids love them to make ponds, tutus on nins, and a lot of fun in stacking challenges.
15: Balls are a lot of fun a loose parts, but having wooden balls gives a great sound in Ball runs. Read here about the sizes suggested for ball runs.


16:  For ages 5 and up, lifelike figures are a big success. There are a number of makers–we especially like Ostheimer figures, Holztiger has a popular castle line–but if you’re looking for something a bit more open-ended, the Grapat Rainbow Tomten are a great option.
17: Animal figures are also a lot of fun. Some are very popular for being favorite animals in our house, others that are less familiar we use for building small world dioramas to act out and learn about different ecosystems.

Small world

18: Plants help set the stage in small world play, and are beautiful. We keep ours displayed on a shelf so they’re easy to reach and beautiful to look at all the time. A couple of plants are a great way to help set a mood in small world play.
19: Tumi-Ishi blocks are a really fun stacking challenge. They’re good boulders in small world play, and are a really great fidget or desk toy too (yup. we absolutely have 2 sets–one for the kids and one at my desk)
20: Wave stackers are some of my favorites–I think they’re beautiful and the organic shapes are wonderful for building and setting the scene. There are also wonderful mountain stackers, cave stackers and house stackers. Keep an eye out for a stacker that fits in well with the play style of your family.

In each of these categories, there are so many different pieces and sets that could meet these needs.  We’ve found these to be some of our most-used pieces, and these give a really solid foundation to any collection. 

Please don’t think you need to get everything, or the specific things listed above all at once to foster fun play. Look at my shopping guide recommendations for suggestions by age for a year-by-year breakdown.

If you’re shopping for upcoming holidays, please remember that these toys tend to sell out quickly and early, and there are not always restocks close to December.  I would always advise that if there’s something you know you’d like to buy and you see it in stock, buy it at the first opportunity.  These toys hold their value beautifully—almost certainly if you purchase and then change your mind, you’ll be able to resell right around RRP.  I’ve included some links if you’re looking for places to shop. Also an Amazon link, because sometimes thats handy, but note that their prices aren’t always the best for wooden toys.

Not mentioned by name in the post: “Eric and Albert” and “Dadakacraft” are two small makers who both make lovely small world figures. In the display above, Eric and Albert made the foxes, Dadakacraft made the Christmastree shaped fir tree. The other figures were made by Holztiger and Ostheimer.

Some of the links in this page are affiliate links. That means when you purchase through them, Building with Rainbows receives a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.

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